A Letter from our Israel Partnership Chair
by Iris Kraemer
|A student at the Elisheva School in Pardes Hanna practicing English with Partnership Chair, Iris Kraemer.|
It is with great pleasure and pride that I serve as Local Chairperson of our Israel Partnership. The Hadera-Eiron region is home to the many members of our extended Israeli family, with whom personal relationships have been formed through our many Partnership programs.
It is also home to every Jew in Jacksonville. It is a place where you can become a part of Israel, not as a tourist but as a member of a family, an integral part of Israeli society. The connections we have with the people of this very special region of Israel, transcend the geographical distance between us.
The Partnership program brings us to Israel as it brings the real Israel to us every day. From my first of many visits to Hadera-Eiron, I've seen our involvement expand steadily, branching into so many areas of our community. Jewish life has been greatly enriched on both sides of the ocean. (See the article below about a recent trip to Hadrea-Eiron by Iris)
When you plan a trip to Israel, make sure to include some time in Hadera-Eiron. Our Partnership region offers endless opportunities for everyone, whether these opportunities are social, educational, or volunteer experiences in nature.
Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, recently stated: "There is no better weapon to guarantee a Jewish future than the Israel experience."
I would like to add that no Israel experience is complete without our Partnership.
My experiences traveling to our Partnership region of Hader-Eiron
by Iris Kraemer
Hadera-Eiron is located 25 miles north of Tel Aviv and is a short drive from the lovely coastal town of Netanya, where my 17-year-old daughter, Elissa, volunteered at the Israel National Therapeutic Riding Association.
This summer, I arrived in our region to see our Israeli partners working to make opportunities out of challenges, create better citizens, inspire leadership, and demonstrate that all of the world’s Jews are connected. I had the privilege of being warmly welcomed into the lives of two Israeli families, observing teachers and administrators, and interacting in classes with high school students.
Partnership (formerly known as Partnership 2000 or P2K) is a program that was started by the Jewish Agency of Israel (JAFI) in 1995. The goal is to link Jewish communities in the United States with communities in Israel to create “people to people” relationships. Through Partnership, our communities develop joint programming in a mutually beneficial relationship that will create lasting, meaningful connections.
In the lovely city of Pardes Hanna, known for its citrus groves, I spent alternating days at the religious Elisheva Girls’ School and at the Sadnaot, or Vocational School. At Elisheva, where many of the students are new immigrants from Ethiopia and Russia, those judged to be the best English speakers spent class periods with me to practice conversation.
For quite a few, I was the first American they had ever met. Communication was a challenge, even for these good English students. With a combination of English, Hebrew and charades, I answered questions about Jewish life in Jacksonville, showed maps of America, and photos of famous places such as the White House, New York City and Disney World. I was asked about our synagogues and schools as well as about anti-Semitism.
Most of the students seemed somewhat surprised about the passion many American Jews have for Israel. The question I heard most often was, “Why don’t you live here?” Although we were experiencing a heat wave and the non-air conditioned classrooms were hot and sticky, these sweet girls showed an abundance of enthusiasm. If you are in a neighborhood of the Elisheva School, I urge you to visit these lovely girls and be sure to see the unique artwork that adorns the wall of their hallways.
The Sadnaot, or Vocational School of Pardes Hanna, was described as a kind of “last chance” school option for students with behavioral, emotional and academic problems. Here they can focus on photography, carpentry, hairdressing or cooking in addition to some academics. In some of the classes I visited, some students kept their heads down on their desks but perked up to look at my photos, to take pictures with my camera, and to ask questions about the United States. Attendance for these lesser motivated students, who are often seen arriving at school without backpacks or supplies, is required before they can participate in field trips and supplemental performing arts programs.
According to the administration, most students return until they have completed 12th grade. Various trophies earned by the students in sports and the arts are proudly displayed in the principal’s office, showing that there is much success here. The time I spent in our region also included a tour of a MAKSAM, an after-school center for Ethiopian and Russian immigrants. Maksam is a word that means “pollinating” in the Ethiopian language of Amharic. There are five Maksams in Hadera. The one I visited was located in a former bomb shelter.
It consisted of caring and dedicated staff members and volunteers, as well as brightly decorated classrooms for instruction in Hebrew, Amharic, English, math, computers and art. The 420 children served here are also entitled to what may be their only hot meal each day. The Maksam network has shown evidence of improving school performance, motivation, socialization and parental involvement.
There are 100,000 Ethiopian Jews in Israel and more arrive each week. Parents and children arrive unable to read or write, even in their native language. As more people become aware of the issues surrounding new immigrants, more can be done to enhance academic performance and facilitate absorption into Israeli communities. This Maksam program, began in 1996, has seen four graduates attend universities this year.
My visit to Hadera-Eiron revealed problems and frustrations that are met with dedication and problem-solving. Success depends on awareness, involvement and partnership. As stated in an Amharic proverb taught to the students in the Maksam, “Patience is bitter, but her fruits are sweet.”